As a brown bear who’s been be-spelled by witches and rescued by horsemen and demons, Madagascar has spent months recovering. He’s bored. When Kontra’s gang gathers the information they need to take out a facility holding and experimenting on shifters, he decides to help them. While there, Madagascar runs across his mate—a wolf shifter working as a janitor…who pulls a gun on them. After disarming and securing the man, they learn his name is Ishmael Cartwright, a shifter who’d been kidnapped and sold by a now-deceased councilman gone rogue. The experiments done on Ishmael have left him with little memory of his past, and he believes any recollections of him shifting are delusions brought on by the house fire that left scars on his back. With Ishmael believing the scientists saved him, can Madagascar find some way to break through his conditioning and win his mate?
“You’re going to do what?”
Madagascar had expected his older brother’s shocked question upon his announcement. “I’m going to go with Kontra and some of his people to shut down the facility they’ve been researching,” he repeated.
Congo scrubbed a hand through his thick dark hair. “Yeah, that’s what I thought you said,” he rumbled, concern evident in his voice, scent, and expression. “But…why?” Congo asked with a shake of his head.
With a shrug, Madagascar tried to put into words what he was feeling, and he couldn’t very well just tell his brother that he was bored. “I feel like…I should be doing something,” Madagascar began slowly, trying to explain. Just because he’d anticipated Congo’s incredulity didn’t mean he’d had a proper response prepared beforehand. “Something to…I don’t know, help others after so many have helped us.”
Maybe there was something to Congo’s assertions that Madagascar didn’t always think before he acted. Even after over two years under the spells of a circle of witches, being trapped in his brown bear form and forced to do their bidding for fear of bone-deep pain debilitating him, that didn’t seem to have changed. On the other hand, perhaps that had just exacerbated Madagascar’s tendency. Since he could once again act on his own inclinations, he wanted to exert his control in every way possible.
When Congo sighed deeply, rested his hand on Madagascar’s shoulder, and squeezed lightly while smiling, Madagascar realized he must have said something right.
“I understand,” Congo told him, his deep voice soft and low. His brother smiled warmly at him. “I’m proud of you for wanting to pass it on.”
Madagascar sucked in a sharp breath. His bear rumbled happily within his mind. His chest warmed upon hearing his brother’s praise. Not only was Congo his older brother, but the man was the Alpha of their brown bear shifter sleuth—as small as it was with only six members remaining.
Eight now, if we count the couple of mates Congo and Shannon found and bonded with.
And I do not feel jealous. Nope, not one bit.
“I know I don’t say it enough, Mads,” Congo muttered, using his other arm to pull him into a hug. “But I am proud of you. After everything we’ve endured, we deserve to not only build a new life, but to be happy.” While nuzzling Madagascar’s temple with his goatee, Congo murmured, “If going on this expedition makes you happy, then you have my blessing.” Drawing away, Congo pinned him with a serious expression. “Just be careful. Okay? You’re the only family I got.”
Madagascar decided not to correct Congo’s assumption of why he’d fallen silent. No way did he want his brother to know about his discontent at not having found his own special someone. He just had to keep believing that Fate would smile upon him one day.
Plus, technically, Madagascar wasn’t the only family he and Congo had left. They had two other brothers. Somewhere out there was their eldest brother, Kenya, as well as their youngest brother, Chad. When he and Congo had left their sleuth due to being gay, the pair had joined the rest of the sleuth in turning their backs on them.
Some nights, Madagascar lay awake in bed and wondered if the pair ever thought of them—ever wondered where they were and if they were safe. On more than one occasion, he’d been tempted to ask Lamar—a tech-savvy peacock shifter in Kontra’s gang—to look into them. So far, Madagascar had resisted, too afraid of what he might find.
Focusing on Congo, Madagascar offered a small nod and a cocky grin. “I’ll be fine, big bro. Don’t you worry.” He squeezed his brother’s upper arms, offering comfort. “You know these guys know what they’re doing.” Barking a laugh, Madagascar added, “Besides, I’m teamed up with Beta Sam and his mate Ryan. The dude’s enhanced. Did you know that?”
“Enhanced?” Congo appeared confused. “What’s that mean?”
Over the course of the year, Madagascar and the other bears in Congo’s sleuth had been recovering from the witches’ spells. The bitches had carved them into the backs of their skin in a ritual using demon blood, stripping them of free will and forcing them to follow the orders of magick users. Although, the occasional dominant paranormal, like Kontra, as well as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who’d rescued them, could get them to respond, too. Meeting those guys had been super cool in a really scary way.
During that time, Madagascar had heard stories from many of the guys about how they’d met their mates.
“Well, Ryan was a soldier, a sniper,” Madagascar explained. “And one of his commanding officers approached him about getting his abilities enhanced.” With a curl of his lip, he rumbled, “Guess some military stooges were working with some of the scientists and getting some of their best to agree to experimentation by showing them bogus propaganda videos about paranormals attacking humans.” Crossing his arms over his chest, Madagascar shrugged. “Anyway, Ryan got his eyesight and reflexes enhanced before he’d discovered the truth and started helping shifters. That’s how he met Sam. A wolf pack sent him up to Kontra’s people to give them a hand.” Recalling their story, Madagascar smiled wistfully. “They had a few bumps, but they got together, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“Huh.” Congo chuckled softly, shaking his head. “Guess I’ve been a little wrapped up in my mate’s activities to have heard.”
Madagascar nodded. He knew that Congo’s panda bear shifter mate, Zhaul, was working with the group trying to get a few of the more stubborn or abused shifters to change into human form. There were also several who’d been experimented on, and with the drugs involved, Eli—Kontra’s pack doctor—had been working long-distance with a doctor in a wolf shifter pack to figure out what was in their system and clear it so they could shift, too.